Family Beach Vacation Tips for a Fun-Filled & Mishap-Free Getaway

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Who doesn’t love a family beach vacation? (Especially if you’re stealing away in the heart of a chilly winter!) There’s the sand, the sun, the sea…and sunburns, unexpected rainy weather, and potential dehydration. Here are five family beach vacation tips to make sure your holiday is as fun-filled and mishap-free as possible!

Family Beach Vacation Tips

Choose the right beach destination for YOUR family

With thousands of beaches around the world, the options are seemingly endless. It’s up to you to choose which destination meets your family’s needs and budget best. Take into consideration size of waves (young kids need mellow waves while surfers need long breaks), type of beach (pebble or sand), surrounding activities (site-seeing, amusement parks, or pure and simple nature), and cost to reach and stay at your destination of choice.

Looking for water so aqua blue it seems fictional, sand beaches, nearby historic ruins, and happening nightlife (for a date night for you and a babysitter for the kids)? A Greece holiday may be the right choice for you. If you want to explore tide pools one day and romp with Mickey Mouse the next, Orange County, California has what you desire. Does surfing top your family’s list of must-do beach vacation activities? You can’t go wrong with a trip to the warm ocean waves of Hawaii. Looking for a taste of the Caribbean? Jamaica boasts some of the world’s most gorgeous, expansive beaches, mon.

Pack COMPACT beach toys

I used to buy elaborate beach toys while on vacation so my kids could scoop, sieve and build sand castles during our holiday. Then I could never squeeze those colorful plastic goodies into my suitcase for the trip home. Sadly for my pocketbook and our planet, I’d leave them behind at our destination. I finally realized that children don’t need a bunch of fancy doo-dads to have a ton of sandy fun. Instead, I pack one mini-sized beach toy set for each kid. They don’t take up too much room in our luggage and they double as travel bath toys. Inflatable toys like a beach ball and a float ring are easy to squeeze into baggage as well.

Apply sunscreen often! (Photo by OSTILL, purchased from

Apply sunscreen often! (Photo by OSTILL, purchased from

Apply sunscreen BEFORE and AFTER reaching the beach

You’ve packed up the beach bag with towels, toys, sun hats, snacks and sunscreen. But before you head out the door, be sure to slather the kids (and YOU!) with sunblock. Once you reach the beach, your kids will be antsy to jump in the water or you might just plain forget this important step. Applying sun protection beforehand wards off burns. Be sure to reapply often throughout the day too, especially after swimming in the pool or ocean.

Make sure everyone in the family stays hydrated (Photo by vsurkov, purchased from

Make sure everyone in the family stays hydrated (Photo by vsurkov, purchased from

Drink LOTS of water and other hydrating beverages

I love pina coladas and beach-side beers at least as much as the average Travel Mama but ever since my dad needed an IV of fluids to overcome severe dehydration during a trip to Mexico, I am vigilant about making sure my family sips hydrating beverages often during our vacations. Staying hydrated is especially important when visiting warm climates and participating in activities like swimming, surfing, or beach volleyball. Stock up on bottle waters and drinks infused with electrolytes.

Scope out indoor attractions, like an aquarium in case of bad weather or beach boredom (Photo by Colleen Lanin)

Scope out indoor attractions, like aquariums in case of bad weather or beach boredom (Photo by Colleen Lanin)

Scope out fun AWAY from the beach

Although your beach vacation destination of choice may typically be sunny and warm, inclement weather can strike anytime. Check the weather forecast the week before your departure and pack accordingly if rain is expected. Before leaving home scope out other activities at your destination in case a sunburn, beach boredom, or bad weather strikes. Knowing where to go to play indoors will come in handy should the fair weather gods do not shine upon your holiday. Explore options like nearby museums, aquariums, shopping malls, movie theaters and bowling alleys. Even if clear skies are in the forecast, I suggest bringing along a couple of travel games for kids to entertain the family in case of unexpected stormy weather.

Do you have any additional family beach vacation tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Top photo by j-wildman, purchased from

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Sally@Toddlers on Tour says

    Great tips Colleen.
    Living in Australia it is must that we not forget to take shade: umbrella or shade tent.
    We also take fresh fruit for snacks as you get hungry playing the water and the fruit is so refreshing after being in the hot sun.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Good idea, Sally! We bring our own umbrella when heading to the beach in our hometown of San Diego but there are often umbrellas for rent (or for free) at hotel/resort beaches too.

  2. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) says

    Scope out bathrooms—especially if you’re in the process of toilet training. If there are several adults, Take turns with each having a time period to be the super vigilant one. Little–or even not so little–kids can easily wander off and on a crowded beach, and all the the blankets and chairs can look very alike. (I got lost on a beach when I was 12. I knew how to get back to our hotel,
    but the undertow had pushed me down the beach and I couldn’t find my family. I went back to our room. My parents had a very bad day.) Even if you’re at a life guarded beach, with kids under 12, I don’t think you want to be depending on the 17 year old lifeguard to be keeping a sufficient eye on your 6 year old.

  3. claudia Laroye says

    Great tips! We swear by SPF-factor sunshirts for our boys, especially in the water, where they spend most of their time. Waterproof sunscreeen just doesn’t last for the amount of time necessary to protect them, and the sunshirts have literally saved their skin on many a beach holiday over the years.

  4. Jay@TravelIdeaz says

    Takes me back to childhood. It’s been a while since I’ve done these things or even get to the beach. It’s been way too long. I got to start making some plans. 🙂

  5. Fab list of family beach holiday tips! As many families are dreaming about and booking their winter beach holidays, these are great travel planning reminders.

  6. I agree with your tip about applying sunscreen before you arrive. It’s so much easier. I’m usually not a fan of spray sunscreen because it’s expensive and can discolor clothing, but it’s worth it for the beach. It’s no fun rubbing sunscreen on kids who are covered in sand.

  7. Beach Party Games says

    Agree! sunblock is a must-have item to wear when going for beach trip not only for adults but for kids too.

  8. best solution for sunscreen from toddlers to teens is to wear UV swimwear, available in great colours and prints, easy to dry and no risk of sun burn with long term damage.

  9. Debi Daugherty says

    I would plan on crafts when bad bad weather strikes, you can always make something with the shells you have collected. Also go to the beach early and come in out of the heat of the day where ever you are, you can always go back out latter.

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